- England Attacking Skills Coach says backline can thrive against Barbarians
- “Going into 2015, we want two players in every position fighting tooth and nail” – Catt
Mike Catt has urged England’s centres to stake a claim Test places and believes this summer is a perfect chance to enhance reputations ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.
However, the first assignment is far from straightforward as a strong Barbarians side visit Twickenham on Sunday and – with Luther Burrell joining up with the squad after the Aviva Premiership final – Catt must forge a new midfield combination from the exciting trio of Billy Twelvetrees, Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond.
Discussing the merits of each candidate, starting with Gloucester’s Twelvetrees, the England Attacking Skills Coach called for eye-catching performances.
“Billy was excellent against Scotland [on his debut in the RBS 6 Nations] and did exceptionally well to score a try,” he said.
“He did well in tough conditions in Ireland, too. Then we brought Manu [Tuilagi] back.
Photo: Getty Images
“This is a good opportunity for Billy to get a run of games with his clubmate Freddie Burns and to prove that we missed a trick by not picking him more. This weekend with a broken field, I’m sure we will see a lot of him.”
Turning to 22 year-old Joseph, who featured in all three Tests matches against South Africa last year before sliding down the pecking order and not appearing in the RBS 6 Nations campaign, Catt demanded an improvement on his domestic form.
“JJ has not had the best of seasons,” he admitted. “Things have not gone particularly well with London Irish and he has sort of dropped off a little bit. Stuart [Lancaster] and I have spoken to him – he knows what he needs to do.
“The ball is in his court now – he has to start delivering. You don’t want to be a peripheral player; you want to be in that Test team.
“Going into the 2015 World Cup, we want two guys in each position that will fight tooth and nail. I know JJ has the ability to do that, he just has to go out there and prove it.”
Photo: Getty Images
Praising the skills and communication of Bath Rugby’s league convert, Catt labelled Eastmond as a “massively exciting prospect” who will be useful in “getting the back three moving” as well as using his own running ability to good effect.
With hard-running Burrell still to replace injured Joel Tomkins, England have all bases covered in terms of backline options.
And though Catt admitted that some electric individuals in a star-studded Barbarians side would pose some problems, he also welcomed the traditionally open nature of this weekend’s fixture against the invitational side.
“You’ve have to remember that a lot of our guys enjoy deconstructed systems as well,” he explained. “When there’s a lot of space and the game is at a high tempo, these guys thrive on it, so it’s about making sure we play to our strengths.
“It’s mainly us just focussing on what we are capable of doing and getting ourselves off to a good start going into the Argentina tour.
“Some of the players that are in their side – people like [Joe] Rokocoko and [Takudzwa] Ngwenya – are formidable rugby players and we are well aware of what dangers they have. Again, it’s about the way we got about it.
“Our players have been very responsive this week, but that’s all good and well in training. It’s about doing the same thing on the big stage in front of a good crowd at Twickenham against what will be a good side. It’s their chance and they need to take it.”